In an effort to encourage county residents to shop locally, Keep it Local Columbia County, in conjunction with Chambers of Commerce from Clatskanie, Rainier, St. Helens, Scappoose and Vernonia, is launching its fourth Catch the Holiday Spirit Campaign, which will begin Nov. 16 and run until Dec. 31.
The campaign, sponsored by Wauna Federal Credit Union, involves customers having their boxes checked off on a 20-box card, called the “SPIRIT Card,” which they obtain at participating businesses. This year, more than 88 businesses are participating throughout Columbia County, and for every $10 the person spends at their business, one box gets checked off.
Local shoppers can also donate to local non-profits, and the non-profit will write “give” in one of the boxes for the amount donated. United Way and Amani Center are two of several participating non-profits.
For businesses to participate, they had to give $25 to Keep It Local Columbia County. In exchange, they were given materials, like 25 SPIRIT Cards and a poster to display with participating businesses listed on it, as well as some perks, like their business name tagged for promotion in two different Facebook Events: “Catch the Holiday Spirit” and “Spirit Selfies.” The deadline for businesses to participate was Nov. 1.
“It’s very much the economic groups collaborating to have a good Christmas. It’s a fun little way to get people to shop locally,” Natasha Parvey, Director for Keep It Local Columbia County said.
Shoppers should aim to fill out all 20 boxes on the SPIRIT Card, or as many SPIRIT Cards as possible. When filled out, cards should be dropped off at a specified drop-off location in the card-holder’s hometown by Dec. 31. For St. Helens residents, that drop-off location is Wauna Federal Credit Union.
Completed cards will be entered for a chance to win the drawing of the Community Prize, which will be a $50 gift card for a minimum of three winners for the card-holder’s hometown. They will also be entered for a Columbia County grand-prize drawing on Jan. 7, 2020, which will be broadcast live from the Wauna Federal Credit Union in Clatskanie on Keep It Local’s Facebook page, for a prize valued at $150. Parvey said Keep It Local is still figuring out the details for both prizes.
This year, Parvey said the campaign has added something else to encourage younger Columbia County residents to join in: Spirit Selfie, where customers take pictures of themselves and their purchases at local businesses.
Spirit Selfie works a little differently from Catch the Holiday Spirit. The campaign still runs from Nov. 16 through Dec. 31, but shoppers do not have to carry a card with them, and there are no businesses officially partnered with the campaign.
Instead, shoppers choose any business in Columbia County and spend $25 or more. They then take a picture of their purchase or their receipt, post the photo on the Facebook Event page for Spirit Selfie and tag the local business in the entry. The Spirit Selfie Facebook page encourages shoppers to “get creative” with their photograph.
There will be a weekly drawing on Friday mornings, which will be announced on Facebook, and the winner will be contacted via Facebook messenger for prize pickup. Prizes valued at a minimum of $25 will be given away each week, according to Spirit Selfie’s Facebook page.
Before Keep It Local took over the Catch the Holiday Spirit Campaign, the Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce did their own version for a number of years.
In Clatskanie, Chris Dahlgren, who served in a few different positions on the Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce, created “Catch the Holiday Spirit” in 2011 when she served as Promotion Chair. The campaign had a model nearly identical to the one currently in use by Keep It Local, in which Dahlgren also serves as a member.
Twice a year, once during the holidays and once during the spring, the campaign took place, with customers carrying a card with them, checking off boxes when they made a local purchase, and then awarded prizes when they turned in completed cards. Prizes were often Chamber Checks that could be used to shop locally, with the grand prize being $50.
Keep It Local, when it was formed five years ago to encourage business growth in Columbia County, saw the success of that model and made it their own, according to Parvey.
“When Keep It Local was formed, the purpose was to be the glue to bring the county together. We thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to bring the county together for Christmas,’ and we thought we’d use the Clatskanie model but take it county-wide,” Parvey said.
Catch the Holiday Spirit has been growing in its four years of county-wide existence. According to Parvey, in its first year, the campaign brought in $26,000, its second year brought $46,000 and last year the figure was $91,000 of money spent in-county. Those numbers are just estimates from completed SPIRIT Cards, and the true figure is probably a lot higher, Dahlgren said.
Dahlgren now owns and runs Discounts & Deals in Clatskanie and has her store participate in Catch the Holiday Spirit. She said she gives out about 100 cards each year and tries to push the campaign in her store. One thing Dahlgren said she would like to see improved is the number of businesses participating, and the amount that each business advertises the campaign to its customers.
“We actually need the businesses to be promoting this as much as Keep It Local,” Dahlgren said.
Dahlgren said oftentimes customers will make a purchase in her store and hear about the campaign. They will then look at the list of participating businesses on the poster and say they were just at one of the stores listed, but didn’t hear about the campaign, let alone obtain a SPIRIT Card and get boxes checked for purchases made.
“I tell them to go back with their receipt and make them sign it. Some of the businesses just don’t train their staff to push it, and if that happened, it would be a lot more successful,” Dahlgren said.